Skiers fall short in state soccer final
For an hour Tuesday night, the Aspen Skiers boys soccer team was charging toward a state title in the 3A championship game in Denver.
And then everything began unraveling.
After two alleged bad calls and a moment of miscommunication, the dejected Skiers left the field in second place, after falling 3-2 to Faith Christian. It was the school’s first-ever appearance in a state soccer final.
“I’m proud of what these guys did and what they accomplished,” coach Grant “Junior” Sutherland said via cellular phone from a very quiet bus after the game. “I feel so sorry for these kids.”
Sutherland believes the team’s loss can be blamed on the officials. A line judge made two calls in the second half that gave Faith Christian free kicks. The two goals that resulted from those calls, he said, were the difference in the game.
“I would rather have lost five-to-nothing to the better team than lose like this,” said Sutherland. “I’m not taking anything away from Faith, but our guys played solid all night, and losing because of a couple bad calls really kills them.”
Some 150 fans from Aspen cheered on the Skiers at Englewood Stadium. And the team gave them plenty to cheer about during the first half.
Seven minutes into the game, Jeff Brence broke away from the pack and drove toward the goal, giving Aspen a two-on-one attack. He passed to Reid Hansen, who delivered a solid left-footed kick into the right corner of the goal.
The Skiers were unable to score during the rest of the half, but their solid defense allowed them to retain a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“During the first half the guys gave some great defense,” said Roger Harvey, a fan who made the trip to Denver on a bus loaded with other parents and fans. “It was very physical, very fast. It was a tough half.”
When the team returned to the muddy field for the second half, they were spurred on by the bagpipe performance of Brian Cassidy, decked out in full Scottish garb in honor of the Skiers’ coach, a native of Scotland.
Just over 19 minutes into the second half, Aspen put more punch into their quest for a state title by again scoring. This time Duncan Delano delivered a long, left-footed pass to Hansen, who drove in the ball over the diving Faith Christian goalie.
The celebrating didn’t last long, however.
With 15 minutes left in the game Faith Christian got a two-man breakaway that they capitalized on, cutting the Skiers’ lead to one.
Just over a minute later the Skiers saw their lead slip away, shortly after the first of the alleged bad calls was made – an offsides call that gave Faith Christian a free kick. The shot was high, and Aspen goalie Patrick Sewell got a hand on it. However, a Faith Christian player was in the right place at the right time and scored on the rebound.
According to Sutherland, the Skiers continued to put up a tough fight after giving up their 2-0 lead.
“They were holding on and playing really well,” he said.
But a second call that Sutherland says was suspect gave Faith Christian another
free kick with just under four minutes left. The shot was a slow roller, but Sewell and another Skier player apparently miscommunicated and neither made a move for the ball, which just rolled into the net.
“You could just see it in their faces from the stands,” said Harvey. “They were just devastated.”
Though Aspen pressed Faith Christian during the final few minutes they were unable to unload another shot on goal. Sutherland said Faith Christian’s third goal knocked the steam out of his team and they were unable to recover.
“We were beat by the officials,” said Sutherland. “Those were two terrible calls and they cost us the game.”
The bitter ending concluded what was likely the best season by a boys soccer team at Aspen High School. The Skiers were seeded No. 7 going into the state tournament, making an appearance in the final game unlikely.
But a brilliant performance by David Blumentritt, a German exchange student whose name means “Flower Kick,” gave Aspen a 4-3 victory over second-seeded Denver Christian last Wednesday. Blumentritt scored three goals during what Sutherland said was his team’s best performance of the year.
The win boosted the Skiers’ confidence, which they carried into the semifinal game last Friday against third-seeded St. Mary’s from Colorado Springs. In a nail-biter that saw neither team score in the first half, Aspen squeaked by with a 3-2 win in overtime, thanks to a perfectly placed shot by Hansen.
“It’s just a great feeling to be here with these kids,” Sutherland said after Friday’s semifinal victory. “They’ve worked so hard this season, and nobody deserves it more than they do.”
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